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Understanding Affiliate Schemes & Small Business Partnerships

Understanding Affiliate Schemes & Small Business Partnerships
February 12, 2021 Jacky Ling
In Sales-Marketing

Small business owners will often have a limited budget to spend on marketing and will have limited or zero marketing teams to help them promote their business. In this blog, we will look at alternative ways to get your brand out there and develop profitable business relationships.

It is highly likely that during the life of your business, you will collaborate or team up with another business and benefit from sharing leads, customers and profit through aligning products and services jointly. This may be an ad-hoc arrangement or something more permanent, but it’s good to have a clear understanding of what required is from your small business.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a fast-growing, popular performance-based marketing channel, where digital marketers financially reward their publisher partners based on business performance and not potential; it drives brand awareness, shopper engagement through sales funnels and ultimately increases sales.

This effective online sales tool allows a small business owner (the publisher/affiliate) to increase sales by using another bigger business’s (the advertiser/merchant) ready-made audience and earn commission by recommending the merchant’s products to others.

This involves sharing products or services through blogs, social media, or websites – an example we all know, and love is Amazon! Affiliate marketing statistics show that an ever-increasing amount of affiliate-referred traffic is driven through mobile devices. Truelist (2021) tells us that more than 50% of affiliate marketing comes from mobile platforms, on the back of the rapid and continuous development of digital technologies and smartphones.

Each time a merchant product sells through a specific link associated with the publisher/affiliate, they earn a percentage of the sale with their recommendation. Needless to say, this advertising strategy could promote your small business far wider and boost your sales even further with mobiles on the go.

 How to get started with affiliate marketing

A huge 80%+ of brands have affiliate programs and the easiest way to get a brand started is channel it through a popular affiliate network like AWIN who can offer a wealth of help, support, and advice, eradicating stress for small businesses entering the affiliate marketing arena for the first time. The network will facilitate the set up the affiliate program and will display it to their registered publishers. They also make certain that all the publishers who sign up to the affiliate program are allocated an exclusive tracking code, enabling accurate payments and tracking.

Businesses looking to move into the affiliate channel without a network will have to set it up manually and hunt for the publishers directly, which is time consuming. Likewise, it is more difficult to track down high quality publishers on your own as the network has to approve them as part of the process before being accepted. Reputable affiliate networks include:

  • AffiliateWindow (AWIN)
  • Buy.at
  • Webgains

Social proof required!

Online shopping is now embedded in our everyday life. Now more than ever, online customers count on social proof before making buying decisions. Research demonstrates that online reviews play a significant role in the social proof process, with almost 95% of shoppers reading reviews before making their final decision to buy. When a review is given of an affiliate product, this provides credible social proof for the product and the brand.

How to grow an audience through the Advertiser and Publisher relationship

Advertisers are the bigger companies (the Amazon’s of this world) with an online presence promoting products or services. These advertisers use affiliate marketing to find new customers outside of their traditional reach, increase traffic and orders to their site, and stay front of mind with existing customers. Advertisers are predominantly big brands such as financial corporations and retailers.

Each affiliate publisher (utilising blogs, mobile apps, websites, shopping platforms, social channels or browser add-ons that drive traffic to a brand/company website) already has their own nurtured and existing audience, which means that they can then roll out further engagement on behalf of the bigger brands to get paid for successful online transactions.

These new audiences may have been difficult to reach with other forms of advertising, but these new niche audiences then become an established part of the brands’ lead base.

Get your brand out there!

There’s a whole world out there, so why stay local when you can go national or global online? Affiliate marketing is a key way to driving traffic towards growing your small business. Publishers can give you the leg up you never knew you needed to become a well-recognised brand which could skyrocket your reach, helping to build trust in the minds of your customers as they notice your increased online presence. Truelist’s affiliate marketing stats also tell us that 83% also use it to increase overall brand awareness; it’s the go-to place for marketers who need new ways to ramp up on reputation, online purchases and better their conversion rates.

Money, money, money!

 As a performance-based method, the advertiser/business only pays for the sales generated by each publisher. This ensures there is no wasted budget on unsuccessful advertising methods; it’s based purely on performance – not potential.

Businesses set up the commission rates in advance, providing complete knowledge of how much each sale will cost them. Some affiliate programs are set up to pay for leads or other actions, but the norm is to pay per sale. With other forms of advertising, it can be difficult to quantify how cost-effective the price of a sale is, but with affiliate marketing, it is clear cut. Successful publishers can look to receive a 12-15% pay-out per sale.

Grab those social media opportunities

There’s no getting away from social media in the affiliate arena as this offers a strong opportunity for affiliate marketers to promote products and services aimed at niche-specific groups. The attractive visual aspect of social including relevant and vibrant photos, sharing catchy and quality driven content, and promoting amazing offers to an audience of loyal followers builds lasting relationships with customers. Recent affiliate marketing trends show us that of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter users, 62.37% “connect on a more personal basis with their prospects” and this is only expected to increase as time goes on.

Referral Marketing

Affiliate marketing and referral marketing are not the same. Referral marketing requires a close relationship; friends, family connections or associates who would happily recommend your business. This is the polar opposite to affiliate marketing where no previous relationship exists between the advertiser and the publisher.

Business networking is a great way to increase your business contacts and build up your potential referral partners for your small business. Once that Know, Like and Trust relationship has been established and there is a genuine mutual benefit for the referral relationship, passing business leads and sales for remuneration, it could be a profitable arrangement.

One word of advice is make sure all parties understand what is required of you and formalise this verbal agreement approach to sales; it’s important to clarify responsibilities and rewards so nobody feels that the relationship isn’t equal in terms of time, money and effort.

The most important thing though is the existing relationship you have with your customer. It’s vital you do some research before you make any business introductions. Is there a genuine connection here or are you forcing a relationship that isn’t really necessary for a sake of a referral sale and damaging your own reputation? And remember, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legal framework is there for a reason, so don’t go sharing customer data without authorisation!

Working in collaboration with other businesses and through affiliate schemes can be hugely rewarding and if you’d like to find out more about how to begin your referral or affiliate marketing venture, contact me, Jacky Ling, to join the Acorn Club or book 1-2-1 coaching with me.

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